By JESSICA GUERRERO
MORELIA, Michoacán — A month has passed since the Tula River, located in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo, overflowed and collapsed its banks, causing the deaths of 15 people and leaving thousands if Mexicans homeless.
The flooding took place the night of Sept. 6, when the season’s heavy rains and the government’s poor management of drainage systems, caused the Tula River — which is fed by the wastewater of three regions, including Hidalgo, Mexico City and the State of Mexico –to overflow.
Within a matter of minutes, the greater part of the city of Tula — just 70 kilometers from Mexico City — was under water.
As a result, the first floor of the General Hospital No. 5 of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) in the city of Tula collapsed, causing at least 14 patients in intensive care for covid-19 to die almost immediately.
Likewise, approximately 31,000 people lost their homes as the heavy flows of the river wiped out everything in its path.
To this day, more than a month later, most of the residents have still not returned to their homes since most of them were destroyed and are unsuitable for habitation because of mold and other sanitary issues.
Although at first, local authorities approached the affected families with promises of support and the provision of food and other basic supplies. But as time passed, the authorities stopped visiting the affected areas and government assistance for the victims dried up.
Today, the city of Tula — once a thriving town of nearly 40,000 inhabitants — looks deserted. Although the street lights in the city are still working for the most part, the electrical network of the affected houses shows structural damage. Also, the drainage systems have collapsed due to the amount of water, mud and debris left by the river’s overflow, making it impossible for most residents to return to their homes.
The inhabitants of Tula are also concerned about the omnipresent threat that the river will collapse again. Since the flooding, the Tula River has been reported at 90 percent capacity. Local authorities have forced those closest to the river’s jaws to be evicted.
Both local and the federal government have maintained that the floods were caused by a natural phenomenon because there was “a lot of rain.” But those who lived through the flooding insist that the Tula floods are not an act of nature, but rather a provoked event caused by systematic mismanagement and government neglect.
Investigations point out that the drainage and rainwater system, administered by the Mexico’s National Water Commission (Conagua) and the Mexico City Water System (Sacmex) in the region, received an additional and abnormal torrent of rainwater from Mexico City that was channeled into the Tula River, which almost immediately caused its overflow.
The foregoing would then explain that the authorities chose to flood the most impoverished areas of the Valley of Mexico in order to protect industrial zones located in the State of Mexico and Mexico City.
The Tula River incident is not an isolated event.
In November of last year, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) publicly acknowledged that the floods in his home state of Tabasco in 2020, where highly marginalized Chontal indigenous communities were severely affected, were provoked in order to prevent the state’s capital, Villahermosa, from being flooded.
When confronted by the thousands affected by that flooding, the president mentioned that “a decision had to be made.” This, ironically, would be applicable to his government policy of putting “the poor first,” since it was the poor communities of Tabasco that were affected by this controversial decision.
Civil organizations in Hidalgo have demonstrated against the government’s abandonment of the Tula flood victims.
Banners and billboards pepper the desolate city ruins, pointing out that the floods were intentionally caused by Conagua and demanding that the government compensate the residents for the numerous damages and losses of their homes and belongings.
More than a month has already passed, and still no concrete actions have been put in place to help the residents of Tula.
With the termination of Mexico’s Trust Fund for Natural Disasters (Fonden) (a controversial decision made by AMLO earlier this year because he considers all independent and semi-independent entities to be corrupt), it is uncertain how the flooding’s aftermath will be handled with by the federal government.
López Obrador said that a detailed census of those affected by these floods would be carried out while the local government evaluates what kind of support and financial assistance will be provided to the victims in terms of housing and food.
In the meantime, the victims are still waiting.